Virginia’s casino plan sparks controversy

After voters in Richmond, Virginia rejected a casino plan for the second time last year, plans quickly shifted to the nearby city of Petersburg. The City Council last week approved a potential casino operator in a no-bid process that is raising eyebrows and likely bringing a lawsuit against the city.

The city has mentioned the Cordish Companies as a potential casino operator. The hospitality, gaming and real estate company is based in Baltimore, Maryland, and operates the Live! brand of casino and entertainment venues across the country.

However, the choice of the company has not been without controversy and the Unite Here Local 25 has vowed to file a lawsuit, arguing that the council violated the state’s Freedom of Information Act by targeting the casino partner behind closed doors. Selecting.

“The actions of the city of Petersburg demonstrate a shocking disregard for the law and democratic norms,” said union political director Sam Epps. “Petersburg had started a competition RFP (request for proposal) process that should have been transparent and fair. Instead, the city council apparently abused a closed session to discuss the selection of the casino operator.”

I*ssues Swirl Around Casino Announcement*

Virginia legalized casinos in 2020, but approval from local voters is required. Residents of Bristol, Danville, Portsmouth and Norfolk approved casino plans in 2020. Petersburg voters will now go to the polls to decide the issue in November.

City leaders initially announced a bidding process for a potential partner, with Bally’s, Cordish, Penn Entertainment, Rush Street Gaming and Warrenton Group/Delaware North all vying for the job at an April 14 meeting.

The council subsequently announced a no-bid process awarding the partnership to Cordish. Discrepancies later emerged that Bally’s had initially been accepted by the city manager and pressure from the general meeting led to Cordish being appointed as a partner.

The city later announced the cancellation of the bidding process, noting: “The letter of intent signed by the manager was never formally approved by the City Council; was not executed freely and voluntarily; and was not delivered to Bally’s, but was instead signed and returned to sender in response to a request as a condition for SB 628 to pass.

The law allowing a casino in Petersburg does not actually require a bidding process, and Petersburg Mayor Sam Parham said the council was pressured by the Legislature to choose Cordish. Along with the union, state leaders have also been critical of the process, and where the issue goes next remains to be seen.

“The city’s actions demonstrate the ongoing struggle within the city’s government in pursuing what the citizens of Petersburg truly deserve,” said State Senator Laschrecse Aird (D-Petersburg), “which is an economic development project in which they have a say and in which they have a say. truly benefits all citizens.”